The lingering disagreement between the management and governing council of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) has caused the postponement of the institution’s 51st convocation.
About a year ago, the council found the management culpable of abuse of UNILAG procurement laws, irregularities in contracts’ award, among others.
However, the members insisted they were innocent of the allegations. They were also cleared by the House of Representatives which scrutinized the audit report that indicted them.
The 2020 convocation ceremonies had been slated to hold from Monday, March 9 to Thursday, March 12.
A statement by Oladejo Azeez, UNILAG Registrar, announced the postponement on Thursday but gave no reason.
Curiously, 72 hours earlier, the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, declared that all was set for the event.
He disclosed that at the convocation,13,489 graduates would receive degrees, diplomas and certificates.
It has now been established that the federal government ordered suspension of the ceremonies after a letter by Chairman of Governing Council, Wale Babalakin.
Babalakin told the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, to stop the graduation exercise which according to him, was not approved by the council.
Babalakin’s demand was condemned by the UNILAG branch of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
The Chairman, Dele Ashiru, said the union’s investigation revealed that the Pro-Chancellor (Babalakin) “unilaterally” complained to the Ministry of Education.
He described the situation as “an evil wind that will blow no one any good”, wondering why the Ministry approved the postponement which might cause the graduands, their parents, relatives and friends psychological trauma.
“This is apart from the huge human, material and financial resources that has been committed to planning the ceremony”.
ASUU criticized the Ministry order to the Executive Secretary of the NUC “to advise the vice chancellor to suspend the university’s convocation ceremonies without investigating the veracity of the (Babalakin’s) claim”.
The genesis of the face-off was the council’s query in May 2019 to VC Ogundipe, and two of his three deputies, Folashade Ogunsola and Oluwole Familoni. The third Ben Oghojafor had been cleared.
Others indicted were ex-VC, Rahamon Bello; former Registrar, Taiwo Ipaye; ex-Bursar and his successor, Lateef Odekunle and Lekan Lawal respectively; ex-Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Duro Oni; ex-Directors of Works, Niyi Ayeye and Adelere Adeniran.
Also on the list were Head of Procurement Unit, James Akanmu; Dean of Students Affairs, Ademola Adeleke; Director of Academic Planning, L.O Chukwu, and Director of Foundation Programme, Timothy Nubi.
The query followed the report of a committee led by a lecturer of Chemistry at Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, Saminu Dagari, which audited the UNILAG’s expenditure between May 2017 and September 2018.
The panel comprised Yomi Kasali, Dora Osoata, Adepeju Adefowope, Daniel Asigwuike, Gbenga Adefarakan, Adebayo Olaleye, Adeoluwa Folami and Oladejo Azeez (UNILAG Registrar/Governing Council Secretary) who was cleared of any wrongdoing.
“There was consistent, brazen, manifest and gross mismanagement of university finances by past and current management,”
The report further recommended that the Governing Council take total control of the university’s finances and that the Tenders’ Board be under the Governing Council Chairman.
On Thursday May 30, the House of Representatives received and approved the report of its Committee on Public Procurement which investigated the allegations.
The committee chaired by Oluwole Oke, said contrary to the report of violations of extant laws and corruption allegations, the university management were found to be clean.
It recommended a review of the composition of the university’s governing council, noting that the current membership composition “is not in tandem with federal character principle as there are no representatives from the south-east, south-south and north-central.”
The report noted that Babalakin, VC Ogundipe, and representatives of Dutum Company Limited, Landmark Integrated Technologies Limited, CPMS Limited, Tubee Consult and Interactive Engineering Consult Limited, made written submissions and gave relevant documents to the committee.
It stressed that there was no evidence that Babalakin planned to take over the chairmanship of the UNILAG’s Tenders’ Board.
Overall, the Reps committee noted that communication gap between the university management and the governing council led to the crisis and urged President Muhammadu Buhari to wade into the matter to ensure it was resolved amicably.
Clearly, that has not happened going by recent development, especially as the convocation was suspended indefinitely.
In 2019, UNILAG had a joint convocation of 2017 and 2018 ceremonies from April 1 to April 5.
A total of 12,811 students received degrees, diplomas and certificates.
Meanwhile, stakeholders expressed concern over the deferment of the 2020 convocation.